Spiritual Truths Are Everywhere to be Seen

From Living Dharma by Ajahn Chah

glass cup with liquid

You say, ‘Hey, don’t break my glass!’ Can you prevent something that is breakable from breaking? If it doesn’t break now it will break later on. If you don’t break it, someone else will. If someone else doesn’t break it, one of the chickens will! The Buddha says to accept this. He penetrated the truth of these things, seeing that this glass is already broken. Whenever you use this glass you should reflect that it’s already broken. Do you understand this? The Buddha’s understanding was like this. He saw the broken glass within the unbroken one.

Whenever its time is up it will break. Develop this kind of understanding. Use the glass, look after it, until when, one day, it slips out of your hand. ‘Smash!’ No problem. Why is there no problem? Because you saw its brokenness before it broke!

But usually people say, ‘I love this glass so much, may it never break.’ Later on the dog breaks it. ‘I’ll kill that damn dog!’ You hate the dog for breaking your glass. If one of your children breaks it, you’ll hate them too. Why is this? Because you’ve dammed yourself up, the water can’t flow. You’ve made a dam without a spillway. The only thing the dam can do is burst, right? When you make a dam you must make a spillway also. When the water rises up too high, the water can flow off safely. When it’s full to the brim you open your spillway. You have to have a safety valve like this. Impermanence is the safety valve of the Noble Ones. If you have this ‘safety valve’ you will be at peace.

if this glass were to break, you would experience suffering. We know that this glass will be a cause for suffering, so we get rid of the cause. All matters arise because of a cause. They must also cease because of a cause. So, if there is suffering on account of this glass here, we should let go of this cause. If we reflect beforehand that this glass is already broken, even when it isn’t, the cause ceases. When there is no longer any cause, that suffering is no longer able to exist; it ceases. This is cessation of suffering.

We have to talk about the Dhamma (spiritual truths) like this, using similes, because the Dhamma has no form. Is it square or is it round? You can’t say. The only way to talk about it, is through similes like this. Don’t think that the Dhamma is far away from you. It lies right with you, all around. Take a look; one minute you are happy, the next sad, the next angry. It’s all Dhamma. Look at it and understand. Whatever it is that causes suffering, you should remedy. If suffering is still there, take another look, you don’t yet see clearly. If you could see clearly you wouldn’t suffer because the cause would no longer be there. If suffering is still there, if you’re still having to endure, then you’re not yet on the right track. Wherever you get stuck, whenever you’re suffering too much, right there you’re wrong. Whenever you’re so happy you’re floating in the clouds, there, wrong again!

If you practise like this, you will have sati (mindfulness) at all times, in all postures. With sati, and sampajañña (self-awareness), you will know right and wrong, happiness and suffering. Knowing these things, you will know how to deal with them.

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